Isla Vista block party ‘Deltopia’ returns, but calmer this year

A mostly well-behaved crowd moves down Del Playa Drive in Isla Vista Saturday during ‘Deltopia,’ the community’s annual unsactioned street park marking the beginning of spring.
A mostly well-behaved crowd moves down Del Playa Drive in Isla Vista Saturday during ‘Deltopia,’ the community’s annual unsactioned street park marking the beginning of spring.

Thousands of students rang in the spring season in Isla Vista on Saturday with “Deltopia,” the college community’s massive annual unsanctioned street party.

With a relatively paltry 3,500 attendees, the sun- and alcohol-fueled event went off much like last year’s, with few arrests and citations, according to Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Kelly Hoover.

Officials noted there was a clear apparent commitment to keeping the party local.

“The vibe out here is festive, people are enjoying the beautiful day, having a great time,” Hoover said late Saturday afternoon.

“We’re very pleased with the cooperation from students. The No. 1 reason why this event was so successful was the fact that the students did not encourage out-of-towners to attend, did not advertise on social media, or invite and hype the event.”

The low numbers continue the 2016–17 school year’s marked improvement in resident behavior, as judged by arrests and citations.

By 10:45 p.m. Saturday, 45 arrests had been made, according to Hoover — three of which were felonies. Forty-eight citations had been handed out, with more likely to come later in the night, and 10 people had been taken to local hospitals.

Last year’s street fair, by comparison, saw 10,000 attendees and more than 100 arrests and 140 citations by 11 p.m. That was a decrease from 2014, when 20,000 to 25,000 attended the event and there were 130 arrests, 190 citations and 50 medical transports, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Deltopia, which typically runs from midday into the evening the first Saturday of UCSB’s spring quarter, blurs the lines between individual house parties and a townwide festival.

Under ideal weather conditions, throngs of predominantly UCSB and Santa Barbara City College students took to Del Playa Drive or held private parties.

Del Playa — the heart of the I.V. party scene — was once again transformed into a bustling pedestrian corridor where passersby sightsee as much as head to and from parties.

As in previous years, law enforcement maintained an increased presence, with the Sheriff’s Department, UC police, CHP, county Fire Department and the sheriff’s Search and Rescue Team out patrolling.

But unlike most of Deltopia’s history, the augmented police force had relatively little to keep them busy aside from patrols and keeping an eye out.

“We’ve said ‘hi’ to a lot of people,” one UC police officer said in the early afternoon. “It’s been calm; everyone’s been very well behaved.”

“There have been a few arrests, a few public-intoxication (citations), but for the most part, it’s been OK,” a sheriff’s deputy said.

Hoover noted the positive trend.

“This is the second Deltopia in a row, and the second Halloween in a row, where we’ve seen a major decrease in attendance, and as a result, the number of citations and arrests and medical transports as well,” she said.

Barricades were erected to prevent nonemergency vehicle traffic from accessing the 6500 through 6700 blocks of Del Playa and Sabado Tarde and Trigo roads, and UCSB students who purchased permits could park in one of several university parking lots.

Additionally, Isla Vista’s beaches were closed to the public to ensure that partying didn’t spill out on the sand or in the ocean.

Like 2015’s Deltopia, the relative tameness of this year’s event resulted from several efforts, including a greater commitment among residents to not invite out-of-town friends and shun the out-of-towners who did show up at their doors.

Parties that a few years ago would have overflowed into a crowded street remained well within their property lines.

The afternoon crowds peaked at around 3 p.m., according to Hoover, and dropped to only 500 by 7:30 p.m. Once the festival ordinance took effect at 6 p.m. — where no music could be audible outside a property — Isla Vista became unusually quiet.

UCSB further diluted the number of attendees by reprising a month-long social media campaign — warning out-of-towners of the legal and financial repercussions of attending, and urging students to keep it local and safe. The university also reached out to colleges from San Luis Obispo to San Diego and east to Bakersfield.

UCSB drew additional students onto campus with a host of weekend activities, including Saturday night’s second-annual “Warm Up” concert in the Events Center, headlined by indie rock band Grouplove.

Mingling with the crowds was UCIV, a UCSB Associated Students organization that handed out to revelers everything from water to condoms, and warned residences of the I.V.-exclusive festival ordinance.

The evening remnants of Deltopia went dark as well as quiet when an underground electrical fire on Embarcadero del Mar forced a shutdown of much of eastern Isla Vista’s electrical grid.

Noozhawk.com is a Santa Barbara-based news website.